Friday, February 19, 2016

Boots: The Factoids

It is worth noting before we start that boots are really a fairly recent innovation. They came out of the need by armies for tougher footwear for marching over rough terrain and carrying heavy loads for battle. Roman foot soldiers wore leather sandals and officers wore buskins, with the higher the ties, the more senior their rank.

In ancient Greek Society noisy boots always had a following. Many dandies wore half boots or Karbatinai which made the stones under foot ring as they walked. Amazon Indians dipped their feet and legs in latex to produce a tight fitting waterproof boot which protected their skin against thorns and insect bites.

In the fourteenth century one of the most popular clergy in England was a fellow by the name of Sir John Shorne. He was the rector of North Marston between 1290 to 1314 and his claim to fame was he trapped the devil in one of his boots. There are many contemporary woodcuts (prints) which show him holding the trapped demon. Unfortunately for us all, when Sir John died, he lost grip of the boot and allowed the devil to escape.

At this time it was considered an act of piety to burn a candle at his shrine. Those who burnt two candles however were thought to do to honour the devil. Sir John Shorne is better known to us today as, "Jack in the box."

A boot containing a tiny, savage bull is supposed to be buried below the doorstep of an old church in Hyssington, Wales. If the step is ever moved the bull will escape. The mini bull will quickly grow and terrorise the village according to the legend.

Michelangelo (1475-1564) was thought to have worn a pair of dog hide boots when he painted the Sistine Chapel. At the end of the enormous task he had to peel the boots off from his skin because he had never taken them off to bathe.

The Macaronis (fops or dandys) in London added new joy to life by wearing heel tips which clinked on the cobbled streets.

In Proust book in Proust's book A la Recherche du temps perdu he made reference to a dandy called Swann, who insisted in always having his expensive boots polished with Champagne.

Wellington boots were made from leather and worn by the Duke at the Battle of Waterloo. They took the public imagination and reference to them appears` in a William Moncrieff play (1817). People started to wear them in honour of the Duke from 1851, the year before the Duke died.

Henry Cooper, the great white hope who knocked down Cassius Clay stopped polishing his boxing boots early in his career after losing fight with shiny boots.

Willy Pastrano, World Champion light heavyweight in the mid 60s tied his wedding ring to his left bootlace as a lucky mascot.

Mukluks are made from seal, moose or walrus skin and worn by North American Induit people living in the Artic regions. The hair was worn next to the skin for warmth. In preparation women chewed the leather to soften the skin.

Reviewed 20/02/2016

Warmest Boot in the World: Steger Mukluks

Monday, January 3, 2011

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Boots in Antiquity: Colour and cost

In antiquity, efforts to control personal regulation were related to the general mode of living rather than of dress. The Greeks had some laws relating to clothing, such as; women could only wear three garments at a time. This may account for why most women went barefoot. The amount of money to be spent on clothing was also regulated by the wealth of the family.

Sumptuary laws in Rome included the Lex Orchia which was passed in 187 BC. This related to the number of invited people who might attend a feast. The Lex Fannia was passed in 161 BC and regulated, the cost of entertainment. According to Brundage, (1987) the Roman Lex Oppia, was adopted in 215 BC and later repealed 195 BC with the Lex Valria Fundiana. He described the action of Marcus Porcius Cato who argued lifting restrictions of women's dress would invite moral decadence and social upheaval. He was right and both followed in quick pursuit.

Colour and material were very important as a means of depicting rank in Roman time. Laws were passed restricting peasants (plebs) to one colour; officers could wear two colours; commanders three; and members of the royal household up to seven colours. The colour purple was always reserved for the royal family. Scarlet could be worn only by royal family members and high noblemen.

During the reign of Claudius I (AD 41-54), his marines were ordered to go barefoot after some demanded compensation from the emperor for the marching shoes the marines had worn out. As a result, the entire fleet were forbidden from wearing shoes.

At the time of Emperor Aurelian, (Lucius Claudius Domitius Aurelianus (AD 270 - 275) the colours yellow, white, red or green were reserved exclusively for women. The only exception to this was he reserved the right to wear red or purple for himself and his sons. He banned his wife from buying purpura-dyed silk garments because it cost its weight in gold. Only ambassadors to foreign lands might wear gold rings, and men were strictly forbidden from wearing silk garments of any sort.

When Roman soldiers returned victorious to Rome they frequently celebrated by substituting the bronze nails in their caligae (war sandals) with gold and silver tacks. The fashion caught on and patricians began to wear ornamentation on their shoes with gold and jewels. Such alarm was raised with the fashion for shoe bling Emperor Heliogabalus (AD 218-222) banned the practice.

Heliogabalus had his own shoes decorated with diamonds and other precious stones, engraved by the finest artists. During the more luxurious days of the Roman Empire, thongs were decorated with gold and precious stones. Sumptuary laws and price controls were later imposed by Gaius Valerius Diocletianus (AD 245-313), in AD 301.

During Roman times footwear came in many styles and colours each reflecting class distinctions. Only male citizens were entitled to wear the toga and the calceus (a shoe or short boot). The colour of the calceus always indicated social standing. The reason for this had much to do with the cost of dying materials which was very expensive. Red was, at first, the colour for high magistrates (in the service of Edile); but later became the Emperor's prerogative.

Brundage JA 1987 Sumptuary laws and prostitution in late Medieval Italy Journal of Medieval History 13:4 343-355.

Reviewed 3/04/2016